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$57,000 in fines for illegal ride-hailing operation

Illegal ride-hailing hit hard

It doesn’t pay to operate an illegal ride-hailing service in Burnaby.

Local RCMP members have ramped up their stings in the city with a series of sweeps that have resulted in $57,000 in fines in recent weeks.

“Did you know in BC to legally engage in ride hailing you have to meet the criminal record and driving history requirements, have a class 4 driver licence and have your vehicle inspected?” Burnaby RCMP tweeted earlier this week. “All of which is to ensure the safety of passengers and the proper training of drivers.”

The most recent sting saw seven drivers caught engaging in ride hailing using illegal apps and without meeting provincial standards to operate. In all, 24 tickets were issued totaling $13,998 in fines.

The week before saw a sting that led to officers catching seven drivers operating illegal ride-hailing services and issuing 24 tickets for nearly $15,000 in fines.

“We wish to remind those who engage in ride hailing to #staylegal,” tweeted Burnaby RCMP. “Which means having the appropriate licences, criminal record check and inspection.”

This followed 7 drivers earlier in March being nailed for 22 tickets totalling more than $13,000. This also follows a February sting in which 10 drivers were caught and 30 tickets totalling more than $15,000 were handed out. Drivers also had their vehicles towed away and impounded.

Burnaby RCMP also teamed up with ICBC and Port Moody police recently to hand out 10 tickets for distracted driving.

In recent weeks, officers also conducted a commercial vehicle enforcement blitz in Burnaby that ended in more than half the trucks checked being taken off the road for serious violations and defects.

Most of those issues would have been caught if drivers had simply completed their required pre-trip vehicle inspections before hitting the road, according to Const. Kevin Connolly with Burnaby RCMP’s traffic enforcement unit.

In all, officers inspected 238 vehicles over three days and pulled 131 from the road for a total of 374 violations and 216 defects.

Three of the trucks taken out of service were found to have at least one tire no longer attached to the rim.

“They had completely gone flat and fallen off and were just wobbling,” Connolly said.

Among a number of sketchy dangerous goods violations caught by officers was one enclosed trailer reeking of gasoline.

When officers opened the trailer, it was filled with fumes, and they found four large jerry cans of gasoline all with their caps open, according to Connolly.

“Essentially the trailer was a moving bomb,” he said. “Any spark would have just ignited those fumes, and it would have been an awful thing on the road.”



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Protesters on 4-day climate march unable to walk through Massey Tunnel

4-day climate march

Demonstrators calling on the B.C. government to take urgent action on the climate emergency passed through Richmond this morning on their way to Victoria – but weren’t able to walk through the Massey Tunnel as planned.

Members of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver instead boarded a bus at Bridgeport Canada Line station, chartered by the City of Richmond, to take them through the city and tunnel to Delta to continue their journey on foot, titled “Walk for Mother Earth.”

Richmond RCMP informed the group on Friday that they wouldn’t be able to walk through the tunnel, according to a spokesperson for the group, which had planned to block one lane of traffic as they went through. The city instead offered to provide “a hydrogen-powered bus.”

While having to take the bus was a “thwarting of (the group’s) plan,” said Quetzo Herejk, who is taking part in the walk, it was good to have the city’s support.

“Here we are in Delta, and in Richmond as well – these communities are facing massive impacts from the climate emergency, so we perceive it as a way in which they’re supporting our cause.

“Municipalities are also strong-armed by the provincial government, and are in many ways thwarted about what they might want to be doing in terms of a just transformation or green futures for their constituents.”

The Richmond News has reached out to Richmond RCMP and the city for more information.

Members of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver — whose aim is to cause peaceful disruption to force governments to take action against tipping points in the climate system — began their four-day march from Vancouver to Victoria on Friday morning.

On Friday, the group walked from the Olympic Flame in downtown Vancouver, down Granville Street and over the Granville Street Bridge, then east to Wolfe and Oak Streets down to Marine Drive Canada Line station. They then made their way into Richmond over the pedestrian bridge and walked along River Road to Shell Road, and then took the Shell Road Trail to Steveston Highway before dispersing for the day.

Protestors are wearing masks and physically distancing while they walk.

The group reconvened at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday at the Bridgeport Canada Line Station, before boarding the bus chartered by the city to take them through the Massey Tunnel.

Once dropped off on the Delta side, the group will walk to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal where they will end for the day.

The group plans to end its march in Victoria on Monday, where they will nail their proposed “Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill” to the doors of the B.C. legislature.

Outlined in the bill are four action points, said Herejk, including helping industries transform their practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit extractions; forming a citizens’ assembly to help tackle climate change, as well as racism and the opioid crisis; laying out the facts of climate change and taking immediate action to fight it.

“Part of ‘act now,’ means your behaviour needs to line up with your commitments,” Herejk said, speaking of the B.C. government.

“So that’s why we’re on this walk right now to Victoria – there’s this sort of gas-lighting happening. Out of one side of their mouth they’re saying, we’re committed, we’re going to have a green future…and out the other, they’re sort of pouring fuel into our backyard and lighting it on fire.”

She added that the B.C. government needs to stick to its commitment of reducing greenhouse gases.

“(That) has to happen much quicker than I think any of the governments in Canada are currently lining up with.”

When asked about current travel advisories against non-essential travel, Herejk said that “unfortunately the government has made this essential travel.”

“I would like to be able to adhere to those orders. However, the government is, on the one hand saying stay home, stay in your neighbourhood because of this pandemic, but they’re committing us to a situation called climate collapse… the government’s failure to protect us (from that) has made this essential.”

Extinction Rebellion Vancouver is also planning a week of disruptive action starting May 1 in Vancouver, where they plan to block streets and bridges.



Trans Canada Highway partially closed near Sicamous for vehicle recovery

Highway 1 partially closed

Highway 1 is partially closed west of Sicamous Saturday, and single lane, alternating traffic is in effect for the time being.

DriveBC is reporting the closure is for a vehicle recovery near Sicamous after a crash earlier Saturday morning.

Motorists are asked to watch for traffic control crews.

The next update on the situation is expected at 1:30 p.m.



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Interior Health is vaccinating entire adult populations of dozens of small communities

Vaccinating entire towns

Adult residents of dozens of small Interior communities are, or soon will be, eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of their age.

Interior Health has taken a “whole community approach” to its immunization program in small communities across the Interior, for people 18 and older. IH says residents of these communities face barriers to accessing larger immunization clinics in urban places, so smaller clinics are being brought to them.

While some clinics have already come and gone, others are currently in operation, others will be up and running in the coming weeks.

In a curious move, IH has made no mention to the media of immunizing entire populations of dozens of smaller communities, but Castanet has reached out for more information.

Communities in the Thompson-Okanagan include:

  • Ashcroft (April 26 – May 6)
  • Barriere (April 22 – April 30)
  • Beaverdell (April 12)
  • Cache Creek (April 26 – May 6)
  • Celista (April 6 – April 10)
  • Chase (April 12 – April 21)
  • Enderby (March 15 – ongoing)
  • Greenwood (April 16- April 17)
  • Lee Creek (April 12 – April 21)
  • Magna Bay (April 6 – April 10)
  • Scotch Creek (April 6 – April 10)
  • Seymour Arm (April 6 – April 10)
  • Sicamous (March 25 – April 30)
  • Sun Peaks (May 4 – May 7)

A full list of the 47 communities where adult residents can be vaccinated can be found here.

Residents can register for their vaccine appointment online here, or by calling 1-833-838-2323 between 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Those living outside of the noted communities must wait for the age-based vaccine rollout. Currently, those 64 and older can book their appointment, while those between 55 and 65 can receive their AztraZeneca vaccine at a local pharmacy.

“Immunization clinics will verify postal codes at the time of appointments,” IH said in a statement. “We are aware of some instances of people traveling from other regions to seek vaccinations in these communities. This not only takes away from the calculated vaccine supply for the community but may also potentially expose residents to COVID-19 when people travel from other regions.”

The entire adult population of the Windermere local health area in eastern B.C. will also be able to receive their vaccine starting Monday, after new cases have soared there in recent weeks.

The Windermere local health area, which includes Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, Windermere, Fairmont Hot Springs and Canal Flats, saw new weekly cases jump to 24 between March 28 and April 3, followed by another 34 between April 4 and 10.

With a population of just over 10,000 people, the most recent data shows a weekly infection rate of 335 cases per 100,000 people. The Central Okanagan, meanwhile, had a weekly infection rate of 136 cases per 100,000 people. As a result, Interior Health has made the move to vaccinate the entire community, to limit transmission.

A similar move to vaccinate most of a region's population was recently made in Whistler, where widespread transmission has led to a large number of P.1 variant of concern cases.



B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

Mine claim on sacred land

A mineral exploration company with provincial permits to work in Tahltan territory in northwestern British Columbia is treading on sacred grounds, an elected leader in the nation's government says.

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government.

There's "no way" the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, he said.

"The Sheslay area was a major village site in pre-contact times and even nowadays we have many elders who were born in the Sheslay area. Many of our ancestors are buried out there," Day said in an interview.

"British Columbia, Doubleview, we should all just save ourselves a lot of time, energy and conflict and get Doubleview out of there," he said.

Doubleview has 10 mineral tenures covering about 63 square kilometres where "an aggressive 2021 exploration program is being planned," the company said in an update posted online in February.

It said it expected to give shareholders a more complete assessment of the deposit's value after verifying the results ofmetallurgical sample analysis.

The Tahltan Central Government accuses Doubleview of failing to act in a manner consistent with both Tahltan protocols for the mining sector and with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Tahltan made "many reasonable attempts to work with Doubleview in a respectful manner," the central government said in a statement in March.

But the company has a "track record of being disrespectful ... including unsuccessfully taking legal action against Tahltan leaders and elders in 2015," it said.

Doubleview "regrets the poor relationship that we have established" with the Tahltan, lead director Andrew Rees said in an emailwhen asked about the conflict, and the company offered an apology letter after the nation's public statement.

"Doubleview strives to be a responsible steward of the areas in which we live and operate, and continues to seek a positive, collaborative, productive, and mutually beneficial relationship with the Tahltan Central Government."

The Mines Ministry said Doubleview was first granted a multi-year permit in 2012 in a process that included consultation with the Tahltan Nation.

Laws and legal precedents concerning Indigenous rights and title have changed since then, said Day.

The B.C. government is now in the early stages of aligning its laws with the UN declaration after adopting it through legislation.

It requires governments to obtain free, prior and informed consent before taking actions that affect Indigenous Peoples and territories — which would include decisions on proposed mines and future exploration work permits.

The statutory adoption of the UN declaration means industry and the B.C. government must start building "processes that seek a genuine consent from Indigenous governments, communities and people," Day said.

"And there's a huge difference between having a conversation and calling it consultation versus having a robust consultation process that is aiming to get consent from Indigenous people."

The Tahltan Nation has "excellent relationships" with the majority of mining and mineral exploration companies operating in its territory, Day noted.

There are three active mines — Red Chris, Silvertip and Brucejack — and the nation has impact benefit agreements with each of the companies.

"When you have Tahltan title and rights over 11 per cent of the province and you have jurisdiction over an area the size of Portugal, you don't need to be supportive of projects that are in really culturally sensitive areas," Day said.

The Tahltan has communication agreements with more than two dozen mining and mineral exploration companies allowing it to check in on their work as necessary, he said.

Day said Doubleview had refused to sign, thoughRees said the company is now waiting to hear back from the nation after sending a written response about a communications and engagement agreement.

"We acknowledge that it has taken us much longer to do so than we would have liked and attribute the delay to internal miscommunication and lack of expert resources," the Doubleview statement said.

"Our utmost priority right now remains getting back to the table ... and doing so in a respectful and collaborative manner so that we can continue understanding Tahltan Nation's ongoing concerns, which will allow us to collaboratively develop appropriate mitigation measures."

Day, however, said the company has "chosen a path of conflict" with the Tahltan and he would oppose any further permits.



Man claims officer shot him with a non-lethal round while he was already apprehended and in handcuffs

Shot while in handcuffs: suit

A Kootenay RCMP officer is facing a new lawsuit after he allegedly shot a man with a non-lethal round who was already detained in handcuffs. Police had first come to the man's home because he had told them he was suicidal.

While the lawsuit was filed this week in Kelowna's BC Supreme Court, the incident allegedly occurred back on Aug. 3, 2019 near Fernie.

In the suit, Jason Luke claims he was experiencing a “mental breakdown” on Aug. 2, 2019, and due to his ongoing alcohol addiction, he was suicidal. He says he called 911 that day and said he “wanted to die and that he would be harming himself.” He told the operator that he had a gun in his possession.

Luke says police did not arrive at his home until the next day, when an officer banged on his door at about 1 p.m.

“The plaintiff exited his camper and tried to run towards his car,” Luke states in the suit. “While the plaintiff was running towards his vehicle, the plaintiff was shot by the RCMP in his upper left buttocks. The plaintiff later learned that the round that the RCMP used was a non-lethal round.”

Luke says he fell to the ground and was handcuffed by an officer, before being escorted to an RCMP cruiser. He says he was cooperative with police, was not "flailing" or taking “any steps to wrench himself from the grips of the RCMP.”

Before he was put into the vehicle, Luke says another unidentified officer, referred to as John Doe, approached him while he was still in handcuffs.

“John Doe looked straight at the plaintiff and discharged another non-lethal round into the plaintiff's upper right thigh, close to the plaintiff's genitals," the suit states. "Neither John Doe nor any member of the RCMP was in danger from the plaintiff.”

Luke said the officer had the “deliberate intention of hurting the [him] without just cause.”

He said he suffered “lacerations, damage to his thigh, facial bruising, swelling and excessive bleeding” and he required medical attention at the Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie.

“These injuries have caused and continue to cause the plaintiff pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of physical, mental and emotional health and loss of earnings past and future,” the lawsuit states. “These injuries aggravated or exacerbated earlier injuries such that they are impossible to separate.”

Additionally, Luke claims the officer who shot him with the non-lethal round “has a history of complaints and a history of abusing his authority,” of which the RCMP is allegedly aware of.

RCMP spokesperson Janelle Shoihet declined to comment on the new lawsuit, saying that the RCMP would be filing an official response through the courts.

In addition to general damages, recovery of health care costs, and loss of earnings, Luke is also seeking aggravated and punitive damages from the RCMP and the unidentified officer.

“John Doe and the RCMP's actions were reckless, arrogant, high-handed and abusive and showed a callous disregard for the plaintiff's rights,” Luke states in the lawsuit. “John Doe and the RCMP have engaged in conduct that is reprehensible and deserves punishment.”

None of Luke's allegations have been proven in court, and the RCMP has yet to file a response to the suit.

The suit comes 14 months after Const. Lacey Browning dragged nursing student Mona Wang through the hallways of her apartment building and stepped on her head in the building's lobby. That incident also began with a "wellness check," as Wang had attempted to commit suicide that evening. The RCMP continue to investigate Const. Browning's conduct.



Kootenay Pass to close for two hours Saturday afternoon

Hwy 3 planned closure

Motorists travelling east on Highway 3 are being advised of a planned closure of Highway 3 on Saturday.

The Kootenay Pass will be closed for about two hours starting at 3 p.m. on April 17 for avalanche mitigation work.

An alternate route is available Nelson to Creston; Highway 3A and the Kootenay Lake Ferry.



Police seek additional victims in B.C. after Edmonton man charged with child sex offences

Police seek more victims

After RCMP in Alberta laid charges against a 53-year-old man in connection with an ongoing sexual assault investigation, police in B.C. are urging people in the Lower Mainland to come forward with any similar incidents.

Brad Dahr of Edmonton was arrested on April 15 after investigators executed a search warrant at a residence in the Alberta capital. The search resulted in the seizure of various electronic devices, documents and clothing, police say.

Dahr is charged with two counts of sexual interference and one count of voyeurism, which allegedly took place between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 31, 2019. He is also accused of sexual exploitation, luring a child, possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography and making sexually explicit material available to a child, all of which allegedly transpired between April 1 and Oct. 31 of last year.

None of these allegations have been proven in court.

The charges come as a result of a Vegreville RCMP investigation that began last November. All of the sexual offences Dahr is currently charged with reportedly took place between 2018 and 2020 in the Vegreville area, about 103 kilometres east of Edmonton, and are said to involve teenage female victims who were known to the accused.

As RCMP continue to investigate, police are encouraging any other potential victims of Dahr's from across Western Canada—including Edmonton, Vegreville, Drumheller, Beiseker, and Beauvallon, Alta.; the Lower Mainland in British Columbia; and Yellowknife, N.W.T—to reach out to authorities.

Police say Dahr has also been "widely known" in the above-listed areas as "Pastor Brad." He is described as bald with a light brown fringe and blue eyes, weighing 260 lbs. and standing at 6 feet.

Following a judicial hearing, Dahr was released with conditions and is scheduled to appear in Vegreville Provincial Court on May 3.

Police ask anyone with information linked to this investigation to contact their local police or Vegreville RCMP at 780-631-2750. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact authorities via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at www.P3Tips.com or by using the "P3 Tips" app available through app stores.



Henry sends mixed messages on outdoor gatherings ahead of hot weekend

Mixed messages from Henry

Ahead of what is forecast to be the hottest weekend of the year so far, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging British Columbians to limit outdoor gatherings to as few people as possible.

But the message comes without a change to Henry’s public health order on gatherings and events, which currently allows for outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, whether in the park, beach or in your backyard.

“Even if we can see people outside of our household, we shouldn’t right now,” said Henry Thursday. “We know that outside is lower risk. It’s not zero but it is lower risk.”

By offering a less than a clear-cut message, Henry attempted to walk a fine line encouraging people to limit social interactions, while maintaining an outlet for some form of social interaction.

If people do choose to gather outside in groups of up to 10, Henry implored people to use masks and maintain social distance if possible.

“It’s likely that without you or them knowing it, someone in your community, in your connections has COVID, may not be aware of it and is potentially infectious,” she said. “The more people you see, the higher that likelihood would be.”

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people do not apply to groups dining at restaurant patios or other outdoor public dining areas, and such activities are still restricted to immediate households.

Single people are limited to indoor gatherings with their “core bubble” — either everyone in your shared household, or for people who live alone, “a maximum of two people you see regularly.”

Current public health orders continue to ban indoor social gatherings of anyone outside your household or core bubble. That means not inviting friends or extended family inside your home and not hosting indoor parties.

Sunny skies and temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius are expected to dominate southern B.C. this weekend.

Meanwhile, modelling released by the province indicates that without cutting the current rate of contact among British Columbians, new COVID-19 cases could surpass 2,000 daily by the end of the month.

Leading independent experts warn such case loads could overwhelm the hospital system.



Could this tiny townhome help Vancouver's housing problem?

Tiny townhouse downtown

One tool to help deal with Vancouver's housing crisis could involve some extreme downsizing.

A tiny townhouse prototype sits at the corner of East Cordova Street and Dunlevy Avenue, across from Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park.

Its creator, Lanefab Design/Build co-owner Bryn Davidson, envisions the model not as permanent housing, but a temporary unit that would become a sort of transitory village if others were added in various areas of the city.

The small dwelling is under 10 square meters and less than five metres tall - dimensions small enough its construction would not require a building permit.

Units could also be butted up against each other, allowing for the addition of kitchen and bathroom modules, and could be kept on empty lots throughout Metro Vancouver.

"For years we've been trying to get tiny houses to be allowed in Vancouver as an alternative to laneway houses because we can do a tiny house for a third of the cost, a third of the time, versus a regular laneway house," says Davidson.

He is happy to collaborate further will developers and the city on implementing the concept but is waiting for officials to step up.

"There are people trying to make this happen and we just wanted to be part of that movement. The basic idea could be done by anyone, anywhere."

The structure will reside at its current location for several months until a permanent home for it can be found.



Dix: Delay of Moderna vaccine 'disappointing'

Vaccine delay disappointing

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is calling the delay in the Moderna vaccine announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “disappointing.”

Earlier Friday, Trudeau said Moderna would only be delivering about 650,000 of the 1.2 million doses promised by the end of April.

In a statement, Dix called the inconsistent delivery of vaccines a “consistent problem.”

“We know how eager people are to be vaccinated,” Dix said. “I am proud of B.C.’s rapid delivery of vaccines into people's arms, especially in our age-based, clinically extremely vulnerable and Indigenous vaccination campaigns. By the time new shipments of Pfizer arrived this week, we had utilized our existing supply. The same is true for Moderna.”

Dix was quick not to assign blame for the delay, calling the inconsistent supply “simply a reality.”

“The federal government has said it will send additional doses of Pfizer in May and June. Doses in April would be more helpful, but we appreciate the ongoing effort and commitment of the federal government,” Dix said.

He called the Pfizer vaccine the “workhorse” of B.C.'s age-based vaccination program, has it's delivery has been reliable in recent months. Trudeau also announced Friday morning that Canada had ordered an additional 8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 4 million of which will come in May, 2 million in June and the last 2 million in July.

“While our ability to offer vaccine doses to people in B.C. depends on supply distributed by the federal government, as well as consistent and regular delivery of allocated doses by vaccine suppliers, the provincial and federal governments' logistics teams are working closely together and are routinely providing important feedback to improve the process,” Dix said.

To date, close to 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C.

Currently, those 64 and older can book their age-based vaccination, while those between 55 and 65 can receive their AztraZeneca vaccine at a local pharmacy.



Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

Partial stay in auto ruling

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has granted a temporary and partial stay in the legal fight over how drivers in the province can have their accident disputes resolved.

The Attorney General's Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal's jurisdiction.

The court ruled in March that it was unconstitutional for a tribunal to make minor injury determinations, setting back government plans to reduce insurance rates by diverting some claims away from the courts.

The ministry said in a statement Friday that drivers who had a crash between April 1, 2019, and April 30, 2021, may opt for the Civil Resolution Tribunal for the time being.

The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. successfully sued the province over the changes, arguing they denied injured people their right to take the dispute to court.

Starting on May 1, the same tribunal will have an expanded role over accident benefit disputes, and the court's ruling has no jurisdiction over those decisions.



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